Even people who love their jobs probably daydream a little bit about retirement. After all, by the time you're blowing out the candles on your "Happy Retirement, Bob!" cake, you'll probably have been working for more than 40 years.
But for some people, "retirement" actually means more work. A survey of baby boomers conducted for Thrivent Financial for Lutherans found that 43% planned to work full-time or part-time in retirement. Some said they needed to work for money, but many were motivated by social factors. Many seemed to be anticipating a change in jobs when they said they wanted work that's enjoyable and not too stressful.
The survey also gave some indication that boomers remain optimistic about their retired lives, despite simultaneously reporting problems in their preparations. On the one hand, a majority (56%) expect a standard of living equal to or better than their parents.
On the other hand, almost three-quarters (71%) feel that a lack of money will prevent them from accomplishing their retirement plans, and a clear majority (59%) have not done any formal retirement planning, either on their own or with professional help.
Maybe some of these boomers will find they have to work.
There are plenty of reasons why people of retirement age might choose to keep working. After all, people live longer and can look forward to lengthy retirements even after putting in a few more years on the job. Many employers no longer discount older workers' productivity, but see them as the experienced and wise professionals that they are. Many people also tend to be healthier longer and, in the Digital Age, less likely to work manual jobs they just can't keep doing as they age.
Ideally, each of us would have a big enough retirement nest egg to give us the flexibility to choose whether we want to keep punching the clock after the age when we want to wave goodbye to supervisors and water coolers forever.
Working into retirement has its advantages. It can provide social stimulation and a sense of purpose while keeping the gray matter in good operation. Extra work extends the amount of time you're contributing to the nest egg that will support you when you finally quit for good. You'll also shorten the number of years that you'll be drawing your income from that carefully saved retirement cushion.
And if you're working by choice, you don't have to put up with terrible bosses, lousy working conditions, and unreasonable demands. You can leave and maybe find a job someplace else.
Less ideally, some people may find themselves worried they'll outlive their retirement savings by a little -- or maybe even a lot. Maybe you're really not prepared for retirement, and you can't see a realistic end to your working days. Maybe you just have no idea.
In that case, it's time to crunch some numbers. If you're still a good number of years from retirement, there's plenty of time to give yourself more flexibility in the future by saving more now. The key is to develop a plan. A whole bunch of calculators are available for free, giving you some indication of whether you're headed down the right path.
Retirement planning is so important we have an entire section of our website dedicated to it. There's much more there than I can summarize in a few paragraphs here. Most importantly, know that you're not too old and it's never too late. Uncle Sam has some generous gifts for people who save for their retirement, and they can help push you down the right path.
Even if you crunch all the numbers and find you're still coming up short, you may not have to work until your dying breath to make retirement a reality. A few extra years at your job may be all it takes to make sure you don't outlast your savings.
If your boss gives you ulcers and the stress causes your heart to falter, then maybe staying at your current job isn't the best idea. Consider your other options. You could become a consultant in the field you've spent your life mastering. You could look into turning something you've always enjoyed as a hobby into work, or even a small business. You can also get some of these same advantages by working part-time.